When we say yesterday, today and tomorrow together, our thoughts naturally take us to eternity. Time is but a miniscule piece carved out of infinity, of which we know very little. When we say that our God is eternal, we understand that God exists beyond and without time. But our existence is bounded by time and space.
Creation was the point at which time started running. It was also the point when space came into existence. Together they define this universe, its elements, its nature, its course and its destiny. Every living being is born in history and dies in history. What happened before the first page of history was opened and what is going to happen after the last page is turned over is reserved for the one who is eternal. We are not given permission to have even a glimpse of eternity till the moment we reach there.
In the visible history of our universe, the most important moment was when the Word of God became flesh to live among us. We cherish the memories of this moment when we celebrate Christmas. It is the remembrance of a historical event that took place two thousand years ago. We have every right to rejoice and sing hymns of adoration to our God because the birth of Jesus brought ‘good news of great joy for all the people’ (Lk 2:10). But we fail miserably when we start seeing Christmas only as an occasion to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
The Scripture says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Our remembrance of his birth also has to take into account its past, present and future dimensions. The historical incident that we call ‘first Christmas’ was not an isolated incident. It was preceded by, and was going to be followed by, a chain of events well planned in advance by God the Father. As such any reference to Christmas without taking into account the eternal nature of Divinity, will be misleading. Christmas is something to be studied in the past, celebrated in the present and looked for in the future. These three aspects of Christmas are intertwined and one cannot be separated from others.
Let us see Christmas from its historical perspective.The birth of Jesus was the fulfillment of a number of prophecies starting from the first book of the Old Testament (Gen 3:15) to its last book (Mal 4:2). Balaam’s oracle describes Jesus’ birth as ‘a star coming out of Jacob, with a scepter rising out of Israel’ (Num 24:17). Isaiah prophesied about the ‘Virgin giving birth to a child named Immanuel’ (Isa 7:14). The prophet records his visions about the future Savior; ‘A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord’ (Isa 11:1-2). Jeremiah tells about the days when God will raise up for David a righteous branch, who should reign as king and deal wisely, and should execute justice and righteousness in the land (Jer 23:5-6). Daniel saw him as one ‘like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven and who was to be given dominion and glory and kingship’ (Dan 7:13).
Thus the first Christmas heralded the dawn of a new era. An era when God came down to dwell with His people as one among them. We are living in this past when we celebrate Christmas as remembrance of a historical event. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, says the Apostle. He is with us every day, every moment. This is the message of Christmas in the present. Our Lord instituted the Sacrament of Eucharist so that we would be able to experience his living presence at all times. We know that the consecrated host is the true body of Jesus Christ, and the consecrated wine, his true blood. The same Jesus who lived in flesh and blood in the past is truly present before us in Eucharist every day. This is the second Christmas which is an ongoing process and is different from the traditional Christmas which was a one time affair and its remembrance being done once in a year. Christmas in the present means the birth of Jesus Christ in the hearts of each one of us everyday in Holy Communion. This second Christmas makes it possible for us to experience the living presence of Jesus Christ; truly it becomes an ‘ Immanuel experience’!
But Christmas is about something more. It is not about the birth of Jesus in the past or its present re-enactment in the Eucharist everyday. Christmas is also a pointer to the final Sabbath, when Jesus will visit us again in glory. In fact this is going to be the final Christmas. Hitherto we were experiencing the love of Jesus in the form of Holy Communion. Henceforth it is going to be a personal experience where we meet Jesus Christ in person, and live in his presence forever.
If we pay heed to the warnings from heaven, or the messages of the Blessed Virgin, we should have no doubt left in our minds as to the truth that the second coming of Jesus Christ is nigh. If we observe the signs of the times, as Jesus calls it, it becomes clear that what is prophesied to take place before the return of Jesus Christ is being fulfilled before our own eyes. There is something common between the first coming and second coming of Jesus Christ. Mother Mary played a major role in helping the Word to become flesh. She is also the mother of the second coming. Wherever she appeared during the past few decades, her message was clear; ‘Repent and return to God’. Read it in conjunction with what our Lord said about the end times; ‘And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ (Lk 18:8). All the efforts of our Holy Mother are directed to thwart the fulfillment of this prophecy in our lives.
Come out of the past to celebrate Christmas in the present with the fond hope of celebrating the final Christmas with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Believe it or not, we are the chosen generation blessed to witness the glorious return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
We know that the first Christmas was the best expression of God’s infinite mercy towards the human race. Similarly the second Christmas we celebrate every day in the form of Holy Communion is the continuation of this infinite mercy, the doors of which are kept open for us. But a time is coming when the doors of Divine Mercy will be closed. Jesus revealed to St Faustina that those who refuse to enter through the door of Divine Mercy will have to enter through the door of Divine Justice. Blessed are they who understand that we are living in the final hours before the door of Divine Mercy is closed and the door of Divine Justice is opened. They live in a spirit of anticipation of the great day when they are going to meet Jesus Christ in person to start an unending celebration of Christmas with him.
But unfortunately, there are others,who fail to understand the signs of the times and spend their days ‘eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage’ (Mt 24:38), totally unaware of what is in store for them. Every Christmas is a time to pray for our brethren who are yet to open their eyes to the Truth.
Let us pray: Maranatha, Come, O Lord.